display | more...

During the closing years of World War II, both Japan and the United States came up with unusual ways to get bombs to enemy sites. The United States developed a plan to use bats to carry bombs to Tokyo buildings, and the Japanese actually implemented a balloon bomb offensive on mainland USA. In 1944 and 1945, over a 5 month period, Japan launched over 9000 balloons carrying anti-personnel and incendiary bombs. These balloon bombs (called Fugos) were ingeniously designed to rise into the fast traveling jet-stream, and thus cross the Pacific Ocean in 3 days or so. Using a system of ballasts and blow plugs, the balloons would ideally drop their bombs on North America at random points and create panic and chaos. In reality, only around 300 of these bombs were ever sighted in America, and the only fatalities were 5 children and their Sunday school teacher, who died after dragging one of the bombs from the woods near Lakeview, Oregon. One balloon did land on a power line near Cold Creek, Washington, coincidentally idling the nuclear power plant there that was later used to make plutonium for the Atomic Bomb.

The actual balloons used in the Fugos were of two types. One was rubberized silk, and the other more common balloon was made of mulberry paper. The balloons were about 100' in diameter and held 19,000 cubic feet of hydrogen. The balloons carried two types of bombs, one 15 Kilogram high explosive anti-personnel bomb, and five 5 or 12 Kilogram Theremite (incendiary) bombs. Military officials were worried that the bombs could also be used as a vehicle for germ warfare had the Japanese decided to do so. Supplies of decontamination chemicals and sprays to counter any possible use of germ warfare were quietly distributed in the western states.

The first balloons, launched on November 3, 1944 were sighted two days later southwest of San Pedro, California. To counter the threat, Air Force and Navy fighters flew intercept missions to shoot down balloons when sighted and personnel were stationed at critical points to combat any forest fires which might occur. The government, with the cooperation of the news media, adopted a policy of silence to reduce the chance of panic among U.S. residents and to deny the Japanese any information on the success of the launches. Indeed, the launches of the balloons were ceased after several months, the Japanese apparently discouraged by the apparent failure of the balloons. After the deaths of civilians in Oregon, however, the U.S. Government quickly publicized the balloon bombs, warning people not to tamper with them.

This story was in a documentary I saw a few years ago. In it they told about how the US dealt with this threat.

The balloons had an altimeter hooked up to a release valve for the hydrogen in case it went too high. They could also drop sandbags if the balloon was too low, thereby keeping it in the jet stream

So they had the following to go on:

So what were they to do? Well, this is where it gets strange.... After exhaustive searches of all the information they had about Japanese manufacturing, trying to locate where the components were being made the US specialists turned up.... Nothing.

Now we go back in time a little way, to a time when one of the emperors was dead keen on scientific research. Specifically geology. He ordered a gigantic geological survey of all of Japan. They catalogued the geological composition of every part of the country.

Right down to the sand on the beaches.

Come back to the '40's and the war effort: Someone somewhere remembered the geological survey which was squirreled away in some university or other such repository of knowledge in the United States. After some meticulous checking they figured out which beach to check. They found a factory there and bombed it.

As much as I think bombing civillians at random is really nasty, I think you have to admire the plan that the Japanese were trying, Not to mention the thorough approach the people in the US took to dealing with it. If no-one had died on either side it would probably be the best war story of them all.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.